Let me ask you this: Has the whole world gone mad? No, seriously, were the tickets to Nuttyville discounted at the local Wal-Mart or something? I ask this because my FaceBook newsfeed has been filled with stories of grown ups beating on their children and actually celebrating it as the go-to parenting tool to raise good, well-behaved, well-mannered children.
One, a Texas Family Court Judge William Adams, who oversees cases of child abuse, was shown in a YouTube video using a big leather strap to beat the pee out of his 16-year-old daughter—a whooping that lasted for close to eight minutes. Her infraction: She downloaded videos games and music. As views of the video climbed to more than six million and the nation, buoyed by the daughter’s appearance on the Today Show last week, debated the merits of spankings and just how far is too far, Adams finally released a statement questioning his daughters’ motives for releasing the video and apologizing to his community for “the interruption and inconvenience” she caused by releasing the video and suggesting that her father may be a teeny weeny bit of a damn lunatic. Who probably shouldn’t be deciding child abuse cases. Or let anywhere near her 10-year-old little sister.
Adams’ video popped up just a few weeks after another man released his own video of a “disciplining” session he had with an 8-year-old boy who was being punished for cutting up in class. In the video, 25-year-old Devery Broox captions and numbers his discipline techniques, which include using a strap to beat down his little charge, shaving off the boy’s “swag”—i.e., his eyebrows and key chunks of his hair—and then sending him outside for a brutal boot camp-styled workout that would make the Navy SEAL team run home crying to their mama’s. He kicks off the video with a screwy missive about how many black men are in prison and how it takes a village to raise a child; please note that I learned about the video via a morning radio show, on which the hosts and every caller co-signed his techniques under the guise that if we don’t beat our kids, the “system” will. Um, okay. I’m not going to rehash the statistics of increased drug use, criminal violence and prison rates for adults who were abused as children; you can read them on Childhelp.org.
The icing on the child abuse cake came in the form of a story in the New York Times, which focused on a pastor, Michael Pearl, his wife, Debi, and their “parenting” book (I use the term “parenting” very loosely), “To Train Up A Child.” The tome, which has sold 670,000 copies and is said to be a favorite of Christian disciplinarians who cling to the “spare the rod” scripture, gives directions on how to beat 6-month-olds with switches and, according to the Times, describes, “how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, ‘can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.’” The Times wrote the story about The Pearls because their book showed up recently in the homes of three separate parents who face charges of beating their children to death.
Long. Blank. Stare.
When, my God, when are we going to stop this madness? When are we going to recognize that that “fine line” everyone speaks of between discipline and abuse really isn’t a line at all, and that hitting a kid for any reason is just plain, bad parenting. Don’t come at me with the, “I was spanked and I’m fine” thing. I was, too. And you know what it did for me? It made me scared to death of my mother. It made my brother defiant and rebellious and sneaky. It made one of my cousins a life-long criminal. Another cousin, so angered by the years of abuse he endured as a child, refused to attend his own daddy’s funeral. I’m sure their outcomes from that “discipline” have been and are being repeated all across this country—playing themselves out in the courtrooms and the prison cells and the crackhouses and psychologist offices of our homeland.
Seriously, folk: Want to know how to discipline your kids? Get your parenting skills up. Read a book. Google it. Phone a friend. Buy a clue. Use your adult brain to figure out how to get your kid to do what you want and what you say without hitting them. You’re smarter than children. You do NOT have to resort to physical violence to check a 6-month-old or a six-year-old or a 16-year-old. Like, ever—point blank period.
And if it sounds like I’m being judgmental, it’s because when it comes to hitting kids, I am. We have to do better by our babies.
For tips on healthy ways to discipline your kids without physically abusing them, check out SpareTheKids.com, an organization started by Stacey Patton, a child abuse survivor. I also encourage you to read MyBrownBaby.com contributor Michelle Bond’s piece, A Reformed Spanker Reveals Why She Wishes She Would Have Spared the Rod. Each will make you think doubly hard about disciplining kids and finding ways to do so without hitting.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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THIS… is why I love you. Thank you, Denene! Spanking kids serves so purpose (except, maybe, to release the spanker’s frustrations). I was spanked as a kid too, and in the grand scheme of things, I guess I turned out fine. But, it made me so scared of my grandmother that I was HAPPY to move to a foster home where there wasn’t enough food for me to eat, clothes for me to wear, or even my own bed to sleep in. Those are very BASIC needs that SHOULD have been met. Yet, I was happier to be THERE than in my grandmother’s house. Something’s wrong with that picture!!!!
Oh, and this: “Seriously, folk: Want to know how to discipline your kids? Get your parenting skills up. Read a book. Google it. Phone a friend. Buy a clue. Use your adult brain to figure out how to get your kid to do what you want and what you say without hitting them. You’re smarter than children.” Umm… YEAH!!!
What an awesome post! There are so many other options and becoming a repeat parent to say you turned out alright because you were spanked/beaten/whooped is a cop-out if you ask me.
Some traditions are made to be broken and darn well should be. Breaking the cycle of any type of abuse is what being a true adult/parent/caretaker is all about!
If each one of us remembered what it actually felt like waiting for that whooping and how we felt while getting that whooping…put yourself in the place of the child…so not a good memory, is it? Great post, you’re the best!
What a poignant piece! Having been abused as a child, I appreciate your timely call-to-action. Thank you for challenging parents to abandon their ignorant, and out-dated approaches to discipline.
Yes, there is definitely a difference between beating and spanking. There is nothing wrong with spanking children. According to the age of the child, the disobedient act, and personality, a good parent knows which method to use. Yes, I was spanked but never beaten. Yes, I know children that were abused with frying pans, extension cards, etc. No they have not ended up in prison or abusers themselves. Never would I condone abuse, yet I fully support spankings. I would hate to end up like some of the folks I come into contact with that were never spanked. They never learned.
I tend to agree with Beverly. I was spanked as a child, not abused. Age 5 was my first spanking and I can count on 1 hand the times that I did get spanked. I’m 34yrs old and I still remember the reasons for my spankings. Yep, my parents sat me down afterwards to discuss why I was spanked. Please don’t paint a broad stroke with discussing this topic, because from above you pretty much lump everyone in the same narrow box *if you spank your child you are a child abuser and a bad parent. I will have to respectfully disagree with you on this topic.
Thank you for this. Putting your hands on someone is wrong. If your spouse/partner can’t hit you when you do something disagreeable to them, then the same, in fact more so, should go for children.
Cardenie: Thank you. THIS: “If your spouse/partner can’t hit you when you do something disagreeable to them, then the same, in fact more so, should go for children.” A-to-the-men.
Thus is a great post in that it represent a strong conviction and support of that conviction. However, this is a topic I am sure to be debated into infinity. I was spanked as a child, not beaten or abuse. I would agree with the ladies refarsing grouping those that spank into the same category as those that abuse. And with all due respect to your family and the outcome of those that you describe, you cannot factually say that the reason they ended up the way they did is due to spanking or even abuse. There are countless factors that must be taken into consideration and the hitting is only a part of the picture. I know people whit have been terribly abused as kids and turned out beautifully and never abuse their kids. I do believe that spanking to be wrong when it is used as the only form of punishment. I spank, rarely, and I use timeouts, timeins, naps, reduced privileges, reduced activity, etc. Depends on circumstance and age.y kids are not afraid of me. I have a 20 yr old, 17 ur old and 4 year old and they are only afraid of disappointing but not for fear of a beating.
I hear everything you’re saying Kai, but when it comes to my family, I actually do know that their life circumstances are, in fact, tied directly to the abuse they suffered at the hands of their father, who, too, was beaten as a child. They’re not neighbors—that’s my family.
The stories you discuss above are abuse. Plain and simple.
I do hit my kids occasionally, making me a “spanker”, and I don’t think I am a bad parent or are displaying bad parenting. It’s hurtful, too, when we take one aspect of a parent’s life and judge them as a “good” or “bad” parent based on that.
I use a wooden spoon to hit my children’s hands. I use it after all other forms of discipline have failed, i.e., I say go up to your room and sit on your bed and there is out-and-out refusal. I usually give them a choice: do what I say as discipline or “get the spoon.” The rap on their knuckles from the spoon is minimally painful and lasts a few seconds. The crying ends as soon as the spoon ends – so lasts for less than 5 seconds. I may have generally “good” kids, or it could be from the firm discipline (outside of the spoon) that we’ve instilled from the time they could understand. I started using the spoon at about 2.5 years old. But, now, I don’t have to use the spoon more than once a month. I don’t think my use of it is abuse.
I was viciously beat as a child, with belts and shoes, and that did make me afraid of my mother. I was beat for things like forgetting a bag of clothes at school, and I had welts up and down my legs and back. While I can understand that folks who believe any hitting in wrong, I most certainly see a difference between beatings with belts all over a child’s body and the wooden spoon on a hand. On the other hand, I knew my mother loved me from all the other things that were going on. Discipline wasn’t the end-all-be-all of our relationship. And I’m me based on ALL of that parenting, not just the discipline.
I agree with Kai that this could be debated forever, and probably will be. I think arguments that say you cannot do to a child what you wouldn’t do to an adult fall flat because we all recognize that children are not adults. That doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want, but it recognizes that you can’t put an adult in time out – that doesn’t mean it’s not reasonable to do to a child.
I wish the spanking debate involved less judging and more nuance. Everyone parents differently and the judgment – on both sides of the debate – does little to address these most egregious instances of child abuse.
As a professional educator with an M.A. in education as well as child psychology I think that how a parent disciplines a child is a personal decision. I do not condone abuse but see nothing wrong with spanking a child if a parent believes that it is the correct choice of action. Additionally, I have seen the results of the more lenient styles of parenting and/or lack there of and can attest to the disastrous consequences of not disciplining enough. While I am not for or against any specific way of correcting children it is certain that mant people are choosing to be f friends of their children instead of parents. I will end by saying that every family is different and has the right to choose what is best for their kids. As long as the children grow up respectable then I advocate for whatever works. I do spank my son but it is not the only disciplinary technique that I employ. He is extremely smart, polite, friendly and confident. We are very close but he knows that while I love him very much and that we have a lot of fun, my job is to be his parent and to make decisions that I feel are best for him even if de doesn’t like them
I apologize for the typos but I am still getting used to a touch screen phone.
I was spanked/beaten and I turned out just fine. I got punished for mistakes I had been warned against, and the consequences were clear. I am not sure just talking to me or making me go into some room would have produced results. I also know some people who suffered the same and turned out crooked.
Love the blog but you aren’t the parenting police. Physically disciplining children is not a sign of weak parenting; anything can be taken to the extreme. What about parents who “talk” to their kids all the time and don’t hit, but they are cursing, screaming, and degrading their children verbally. Every parent and child is different, and MOST parents know the line between abuse and fair punishment. Acting holier than thou because of you have a certain parenting style is out of line. What applies to the few does not necessarily apply to the whole; what you’re doing is similar to some people’s argument that Government Assistance programs should be removed because SOME people abuse the system. They fail to remember that there are millions of people who do not abuse their benefits; you should be reminded that there are millions of parents who may spank but don’t abuse their kids.
Spanking is hitting and hitting people is stupid!!!!!! I can’t understand for the life of me why u can’t hit adults, why kids can’t hit kids or why kids can’t hit adults. If a kid hits an adult, it’s called being disrespectful. . . But adults sure can hit/beat kids when they want to for “discipline’s” sake!!!!!!!!!! I mean, I just don’t understand this double standard CRAP!!!!!!!!! Why can u hit and beat a small and defenseless person by law but u can’t hit or beat a person your own size???? Puzzling. I also don’t understand why the people that r happy with being hit/beat by their parents see it as love and said that they turned out ok. They also said they “deserved” it. Did u forget what it feels like to even be a kid??? Who says they deserve to get hit or beat by someone??? Why do people use violence towards kids and think its ok but when it’s done to an adult, it’s assualt- bullcrap!!!!! I really wish children had more rights.